Wild Thistle Kitchen: Brothy Beans with Fennel and Parmesan

There are few things that remind me more of my dad than a pot of beans bubbling away on the stove. The can’t-be-rushed process, the aroma, the transformation of a humble ingredient into an elegant meal — it all makes me think of him in the kitchen and it is the epitome of what I love about cooking. These beautiful cranberry beans are dressed up just a bit, but they still have all the humble simplicity I love about dried beans. Brothy beans are having a little bit of a moment right now in the food world, and these Brothy Beans with Fennel and Parmesan are my spin. Pile them onto some olive oil sourdough toasts and finish with a spritz of lemon and you’ve got the most satisfying, hearty-yet-light meal.

This Brothy Bean Recipe Can Be Made with Any Dried Bean You Love

I chose to use these cranberry beans, also called borlotti beans, because they’re beautiful and I had a bag in my pantry. I actually grew this variety in my garden the last two years, but we ate them as fresh, young green beans. Maybe one year I’ll muster up the courage and ambition to grow enough of them to make drying worthwhile, but until then I’ll continue to buy them online.

As for the broth, I love the flavor combination of fresh fennel and parmesan. Roasted fennel with parm is one of my favorite things, so why not take those same flavors and add them to this broth? A few seasonally appropriate herbs from my fall garden, some shallots and garlic, et voilà, an incredibly flavorful pot of brothy beans with like zero effort. Normally I would add celery and maybe a carrot, but I really wanted the fennel and parm flavors to shine so I left them out. And I should mention, I don’t love raw fennel but the flavor completely transforms after it’s cooked. Your broth will not taste like licorice, I promise.

Parmesan Rinds Are Like the Secret Flavor Weapon of the Recipe World

Parm rinds add so much flavor to soups, stews, tomato sauces, and in this case — brothy beans! Anytime you buy parm, look for one with the rind on and squirrel them away in your freezer until you need them. Some stores even sell little bag of rinds too.

How to Serve These Brothy Beans

Now, here’s the best part: When your beans are done, take a few slices of sourdough bread and toast them in a skillet with plenty of olive oil on both sides. When nice and toasty, remove from the pan and rub with a piece of garlic. Place these toasts in a bowl and ladle over some of the beans. Drizzle with olive oil, spritz with fresh lemon, and dig in.


For the Brothy Beans:

  • 2 cups dried beans
  • 1 parmesan cheese rind
  • 1 bulb of fresh fennel, trimmed and halved
  • 1 head of garlic, halved
  • 2 shallots, halved
  • a few sprigs of fresh sage
  • a few sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 dried bay leaf
  • 5 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cups water

To Serve:

  • Sourdough toasts
  • lemon wedges
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • chopped fresh herbs

These Brothy Beans with Fennel and Parmesan are simple, elegant, and delicious. A savory, herby broth full of tender beans finished with fresh lemon juice.

Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes

Yield: about 8 cups of brothy beans 1x


For the full recipe and instructions go to Wild Thistle Kitchen


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *